“Corduroy Mansions” by Alexander McCall Smith

corduroymansions.jpeg It’s hard to find new ways to praise Alexander McCall Smith’s stories except to say that in this one he’s got a brand new setting – London – and hence a new slant on daily living.

Up to now we have fallen in love with his characters in countries where he himself has lived and worked: e.g. the lady detective in Botswana, German colleagues in the Portuguese Irregular Verbs, and Isabel Dalhousie and other citizens of Edinburgh, where McCall Smith has been living for many years attached to the University of Edinburgh as professor emeritus of medical law.

With London he takes on a huge new city and we get the feeling of anonymity his characters feel as they head out to make their fortune surrrounded by strangers. “Corduroy Mansions” is the nickname they give the big rambling apartment building where they live in the Pimlico district of south London. There’s a Member of Parliament called Oedipus Snark, a middle-aged wine merchant whose son won’t leave the apartment, a literary agent looking for a husband. McCall Smith pokes fun at their love life, but nor does he leave them completely stranded. For the first time he introduces a dog into his stories and Freddie de la Hay often steals the limelight completely.

It is McCall Smith’s writing style that is such a pleasure: “full of warmth and wisdom that begs for a comfy chair” – says “The Times”.

Review by Anne McDougall